Malpractice risk is a common source of concern for the practicing physician. Dermatologists experience fewer lawsuits than most other specialists in medicine, but the risk is not negligible. All physicians should familiarize themselves with areas of potential risk and avoid medico-legal pitfalls. We present Part I of a two-part series addressing medico-legal questions common to most practitioners that cause a great deal of anxiety. Part I will focus upon risk management and prevention of future malpractice lawsuits, and Part II deals with suggestions and guidance once a lawsuit occurs. Herein, we discuss the primary sources of malpractice lawsuits delivered against healthcare practitioners including issues with informed consent, patient noncompliance, medical negligence, and inappropriate documentation, including use of electronic medical records. The overall goal is to effectively avoid these common sources of litigation. The risk management strategies discussed in this paper are relevant to the everyday practitioner and may offer physicians some degree of protection from potential liability.
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